Cast: Liu Yifei, Jet Li, Donnie Yen, Yoson An, Gong Li
Director: Niki Caro
It is the era of remakes and reboots and Disney is probably on the front seat of the bandwagon. They have, till now, remade Aladdin, Cinderella, Beauty and the Beast, and last year they achieved the herculean task of making The Jungle Book into a live-action film. What Disney knows very well is that they risk playing with their loyal fans' feeling when they make these film differently again. However, it is a risk worth taking, because with every remake they garner a new generation of fans.
This year, the studio aimed high with the live-action remake of Mulan, the story of a young woman in imperial China disguising as a man to fight in the royal army. The 1998 original was slated to be one of the best films Disney ever made. The new film got to a bumpy start due to the Coronavirus pandemic.
Mulan might come with a lot of baggage, but it is important to watch a film with a clean slate. The new film is a cinematic masterpiece and a testament to lead actress Liu Yifei's many talents. It is also as relevant as it was in 1998, as most professions are still boys' clubs. Back in 1998, Disney took pride in Mulan being a princess who didn't need a man to save her. In 2020, when it is the norm, rather than the exception, Mulan gets the freedom to do so much more.
The film puts Hua Mulan on a pedestal but not quite. In every frame that she appears in, she is radiant and powerful, even in moment where she is dejected or awkward. Not for a moment is she objectified and the entire focus is on how she wields her sword. This is exactly why we want more women behind the camera.
The film profits the most from being a cinematic experience. Every frame can be frozen and admired. It is also a beautiful documentation of a culture and heritage. Mulan is a film fit for the silver-screen and it is sad that the audiences cannot live the film to its optimal.
However, even when we are watching a remake with a clean slate, our brain makes comparisons. The animated film was blessed with little gems which people still hold close to their hearts. One was the part where Mulan's mother gets her ready to meet a matchmaker and applies make-up to her face. The song in the background is 'Honor to us all' which is a subtle indicator about Mulan's dream being crushed in order to bring other to her family. It is a beautiful sequence, and painful at the same time. This was particularly missed in the new film. However, Christina Aguilera's 'Reflection' from the old film and a new song 'Loyal Brave and True' is a consolation.
The film also benefits from casting. Yiu Lifei fits like a jigsaw puzzle and it shows the amount of dedication she has put into her work. On the other side is Gong Li, who plays the 'witch' Xianniang. She is perfect as a misunderstood and outcast warrior who joins forces with the evil. In some ways, the film is about these two women and what they do next.
Mulan will eventually be remembered as a source of inspiration for a new generation of young people to be fierce and brave. Watch the film with the young ones in your family. Little girls need to see that they are strong, so do little boys. Cinema can spark a lifetime of inspiration and determine how one looks at themselves and the world around them.